Study Shows Climate Change Could Raise Risk of Food Shortage in Many Countries

A new study suggests extremes in weather due to climate change could increase the risk of food shortages in a number of countries.

The study, led by the University of Exeter, analyzed how climate change could impact the vulnerability of various countries to food insecurity - when people lack access to a satisfactory quantity of reasonably priced, nutritious food.

Researchers examined the difference between global warming of 1.5 °C and 2 °C (compared to pre-industrial levels) and discovered that - regardless of increased vulnerability to food insecurity in both situations - the effects would be worse for a majority of countries at 2 °C.

The research studied 122 developing and least-developed countries, typically in Asia, South America, and Africa.

Climate change is expected to lead to more extremes of both heavy rainfall and drought, with different effects in different parts of the world. Such weather extremes can increase vulnerability to food insecurity.

Some change is already unavoidable, but if global warming is limited to 1.5 °C, this vulnerability is projected to remain smaller than at 2 °C in approximately 76% of developing countries.

Professor Richard Betts, Chair in Climate Impacts - University of Exeter

Warming is anticipated to cause wetter conditions on average - with floods putting food production in jeopardy - but agriculture could also be harmed by more recurrent and lengthy periods of droughts in some areas.

Wetter conditions are anticipated to have the biggest influence in South and East Asia, with the most extreme projections proposing the flow of the River Ganges could more than double at 2 °C global warming.

The areas worst impacted by droughts are projected to be South America where flows in the Amazon are projected to decline by up to 25% and southern Africa.

The researchers scrutinized projected variations in weather extremes and their implications for freshwater availability and vulnerability to food insecurity.

The team included researchers from the Met Office, the Technical University of Crete, the European Commission, Cranfield University, and the Rossby Centre in Sweden.

The paper, published in a special issue of the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, is titled: "Changes in climate extremes, freshwater availability and vulnerability to food insecurity projected at 1.5 °C and 2 °C global warming with a higher-resolution global climate model."

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